Where to begin...
The original plan was for us to go to the Minister of Education and submit our dossier and then formally receive our referral. What really happened:
Galina called the ministry this morning only to find out that they were closed in the morning supposedly because there had been a death within the ministry (I'm assuming a natural death, but after what we've been through, it could have been some other adoptive parents that decided to just kill the representative they were working with). They told her to call back in the afternoon because the department head would be in. She told us to be ready to go at 1:30. So, at 1:30 our interpreter, Vika, picked us up and we thought we were going to the Minister of Ed. We were dressed for that. What we didn't know until it was too late, was that Galina was still waiting to get an appointment for us and had instructed Vika to take us on a walking tour of the city.
I definitely wanted to see Astrakhan and its historical sites, just not in business clothes and dress shoes! We walked around for over an hour waiting to hear from Galina. Finally, Vika called Galina and we were informed that we had an appointment to see the department head's assistant at 4:00. Now the story was that the department head was sick and out of the office all day. At first we were told that all we would do today was literally walk in and hand over our dossier, they would review and call tomorrow with an appointment time to come back to receive the referral. About 10 minutes before entering the building Vika mentioned that we might be asked some questions by the assistant, but she was not sure and kinda doubted that they would ask us anything. But, at least we had about 10 minutes to think about it.
We got to the office and they quickly ushered us into a small room where the assistant came in and immediately asked to see our passports (everyone wants to see your passport here). She thoroughly reviewed each passport and visa. Still not sure what she was looking for. Then she started asking questions: "Why do you want to adopt?" "Why Russia?" "Are you aware of problems that orphaned children have?" "Are you aware that many kids in Astrakhan have Asian features?" "Would you accept a child with Asian features?" I was so flustered and exhausted from the day's events that suddenly I could not remember why we wanted to adopt and certainly adopt from Russia! Why would anyone put themselves through this? But, I managed to get out that we were unsuccessful at having biological children and decided to adopt instead of pursuing the more expensive and more invasive fertility treatments (although IVF doesn't sound so bad right now); that we chose Russia after investigating adoption in the US and found the US to be a very long wait with a high risk of the birth-mom changing her mind.
After that, Bill took over answering the questions and was much more composed than I was. After the questions, she informed us that they would take our dossier and, by law, they have 10 days to review and decide to give us a referral. At some point she told Vika that we could call them at 4:00 tomorrow and they would tell us if they had a chance to review and had any questions. Vika did not tell us that until we got back in the car. Galina went back to the office and did manage to negotiate an earlier time, 11 am.
So, now we wait. Hopefully, we will receive the referral and get to go to the orphanage tomorrow. However, it seems to take twice as long as expected to do everything here. I'm really concerned that we will not get to meet the child until Wednesday or Thursday and then be pressured to make a decision too quickly. We're supposed to leave Astrakhan on Friday. The most confusing and disconcerting thing about this whole freakin' goat rope is that the Minister of Ed already knows us, knew we were coming, has already matched us with a child, everything. But we have go through the formality of it and they act like we just walked in off the street.